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The Dot
by Peter H. Reynolds
Candlewick Press, 2003

The Dot is a little square picture book with a big, hot, vibrant orange dot on the cover. Inside, it's nothing less than an exploration of the origin of creativity. It deftly and gently explores the urge to make art; a heavy topic, but Peter Reynolds makes it an entertaining tale. "I just can't draw!" says Vashti. Her sensitive teacher shows her a way to explore making art without getting hung up on details. Her first step is to get Vashti to make a mark on the paper, the second step is to have her sign it, and the third is to frame it; there's the art market in a nutshell.

The children I read this book to were fascinated by different ways of making a simple dot into a picture, especially when Vashti makes a dot by NOT painting a dot. I watched comprehension dawn in a six-year-old's face and turn to glee – what a great explanation of negative space!

I love the ink, watercolor, and tea illustrations. They're in The New Yorker school of shaky ink lines and splashy washes, but the colors are subtle and the expressions effective. The sure, casual handling works perfectly with the story. Nearly every illustration is a round spot – a dot, in fact.

The act of creation is very much present in these pictures. The text is hand-lettered, and the ink and watercolor (and tea) let you see exactly how each illustration was drawn. Vashti is full of life and energy, a giant personality inside the frame of a little square book. Her pride at the school art show surrounds her, literally, in a golden glow. The colors are complex and subtle – maybe it's the tea.

Peter H. Reynolds is the illustrator of the Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald, as well as the founder of FableVision Studios. He has written and illustrated two books previously, The North Star and Sydney’s Star.

This book inspired me to head right back to my drawing board with a new vision, and might do the same for you and your child. It's dedicated to Mr. Reynolds' 7th grade teacher, who must be very proud. – S.B.

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